Religion

Post about Religious topics. My spiritual journey is a subtopic of this.

The Snowflake

I pause to consider
the snowflake
that has landed
on the handle of my shovel.

Was it part
of the waters
that were separated
from the dry land
on the third day?

Was it part
of the sweat
that fell from Adam’s brow
after he was cursed?

Was it part
of the great flood
God sent
to destroy corruption?

Was it part
of the river
that brought
the infant Moses
to Pharaoh?

Was it part
of the Red Sea
that Moses
parted
providing a path
for the Israelites?

Was it in the Jordan River
when Jesus was baptized
or in the jars of purification
at the wedding feast?

Was it part
of the water that flowed
from the pierced side
of Jesus?

Did it irrigate
hazelnut trees
in the time of Julian
in Norwich?

And what will become of it
after it melts,
flows into the pond
and rejoins
the great cycle
of evapotranspiration?

“It lasts
and ever shall
for God Loves it”

Making Eden Great

Now the serpent was more crafty
than any of the wild animals
the LORD God had made
and he said to Adam and Eve,
“I’m going to make Eden great again.
I will be the greatest president
that God ever created.”

When they heard the boasts
and found them pleasing to the ear,
they cast their vote for the serpent
and elected him their leader.

Then they heard the sound of the Lord God
walking in the garden
and they were afraid,
so they said to the serpent,
build a wall to keep us safe
and drive out those who are different from us.

When the Lord heard this he said,
“Because you have done this
by the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
from which you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.”

Yet still the serpent boasted
“and when I return to dust,
I’ll be the greatest dust ever”,
and the serpent’s daughter
made fancy clothes
that were too expensive
and nobody liked
and tried to sell them in the stores.

And so the serpent started working on his agenda
And he attacked the judges and reporters
That thwarted or criticized him
And he said
“Nobody knew that healthcare
could be so complicated.”

Virgin Mary Crushing a Snake

In Orthodox iconography
we often see
the bare foot
of the Blessed Virgin Mary
crushing a snake.

It is a symbol
of her victory over evil
her willingness
to be a servant
of compassion.

In recent years
the snake has been co-opted
in alt-right iconography,
a symbol of defiance
and fierce independence
leaving little room
for servanthood
to compassion.

Don’t tread on me, Mother Mary.

A Meta Narrative on Sensitivity

According to the Pew Research Center, President Trump has the highest rating among Republicans during the first month of his presidency since Ronald Reagan. He also has the lowest rating among Democrats and overall. What are we to make of this?

A starting point is that the problem is much bigger than President Trump. I saw an interesting discussion which may shed some light on this in a Facebook writers group. Someone posted to the group about an article in the Chicago Tribune, Publishers are hiring 'sensitivity readers' to flag potentially offensive content.

The post has now gotten ninety five comments ranging from “I'm sorry, but this is ridiculous.” and “Hmm, next, ban drama since it may cause negative emotional reactions” to “It's just another type of editing, I don't see anything to get up in arms about” and “This sounds like a great idea. It'll hopefully stop authors accidentally writing very offensive things”.

Others talk about losing the scare quotes and “sensitivity writer” and about how when people see the word “sensitivity” they get all up in arms. Another person noted, “Sensitive to sensitivity as a concept. It's totally meta, man”.

Where does this backlash against sensitivity and political correctness come in? My academic friends may see this as a reaction to emerging counter-narratives and my friends interested in issues of diversity and justice, may think of the quote “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression”. Yet I’m not sure that helps us find any sort of middle ground, and others suggest that there can be no middle ground with evil or oppression.

I think the blog post by Bishop Doug Fisher puts it into a good context, Desiring a Christ-Centered Life, Not a Trump-Centered Life

“Will you seek and serve Christ in ALL persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?”

“Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” With God’s help, we can do that.

Via Media, Refugees, and The Way of The Cross

The recent Executive Order barring refugees from Syria and certain other Muslim countries has stirred up many reactions across the country, including two responses from the Episcopal Bishops in Connecticut. On January, 30 they shared a Bishops' Letter regarding Refugees which said, among other things, “We cannot be idle as this Executive Order threatens to undermine the values that we stand for as Americans, as Christians, as Episcopalians in Connecticut.”

A few days later, they wrote another letter, Follow-up on Bishops' Letter Regarding Refugees which included, “We have received a substantial amount of communication in response to our letter of January 30. In fact, we have received more reaction to this letter than to any other letter sent by us in the last five years.”

The response felt to me like a capitulation to those who put fear over faith but I suspect it was intended more as a response out of the Episcopal tradition of “via media” or “middle way”. It made me think of The Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers Facebook post on inauguration day. I have repeatedly shared this post because I believe it is very important. In it she writes,

Remember that, every time we host or interact with President Trump or any other elected official, we do so first and foremost as representatives of our crucified, resurrected Lord.

As a communications professional, I really like this. When confronting thorny issues in communications it is always wise to return to the mission statement. Representing our crucified and resurrected Lord is a pretty good way of putting it. In the Book of Common Prayer, we describe the mission of the church saying, “The mission of the Church is to restore all people to
unity with God and each other in Christ.”

I believe the intention of the second bishop’s letter was along these lines, but was that really the fruition? I am less sure. Instead,it sounds a little like a letter from the Laodicea church, neither hot nor cold.

The second bishops’ letter goes on to say, “Many of the responses, both in favor and against our letter, noted that we neglected to mention the need for our country’s borders to be protected from international threats of terrorism.” This is an important point, but it falls very close to promoting dangerous misunderstandings about the nature of security. The bishops’ letter talks about the responses being almost evenly split. Yet we must remember, the via media is not a plebiscite, it is an attempt to discern God’s will for us by listening to all sides.

So, what can we say about our safety? First, I will refer to the STATEMENT BY SENATORS McCAIN & GRAHAM ON EXECUTIVE ORDER ON IMMIGRATION. They start off by acknowledging the safety issue: “Our government has a responsibility to defend our borders, but we must do so in a way that makes us safer and upholds all that is decent and exceptional about our nation.”

They then reject the premise that the Executive Order improves safety:

Ultimately, we fear this executive order will become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism. At this very moment, American troops are fighting side-by-side with our Iraqi partners to defeat ISIL. But this executive order bans Iraqi pilots from coming to military bases in Arizona to fight our common enemies. Our most important allies in the fight against ISIL are the vast majority of Muslims who reject its apocalyptic ideology of hatred. This executive order sends a signal, intended or not, that America does not want Muslims coming into our country. That is why we fear this executive order may do more to help terrorist recruitment than improve our security.

Yet there is a deeper issue. Ultimately, our safety comes from the Lord. What makes us safe is doing God’s will, even if it requires us to do something as unpopular and perhaps even as unsafe as taking up our cross to love our neighbor, including those neighbors who are fleeing war in Syria.

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